Alan Sutcliffe: a legacy of computer animation.



This article for was written back in 2013, but it includes a brief look at the computer displays seen in ALIEN, one in particular created by Alan Sutcliffe.



Read the article: 10 Amazing Milestones of Early Computer Animation


So hi-tech for its time, this graphic is included in the intercuts to help to create tension as the crew of the Nostromo are depicted landing the massive ship on the alien planet. Actually, you can see in two forms: 1) on Ash’s console, in blue, and 2) a larger version, in red-orange. See this clip:



Alan Sutcliffe worked with System Simulation on ALIEN, creating the many computer animations used to build the credibility of the Nostromo. Considering how quickly computer animation becomes dated, many admirers of the film continue to find the work ages quite well with the overall aesthetic. That is a legacy befitting a man who spent his professional career expanding the horizons of his field.


The Nostromo map evokes callouts to Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover, and while they are both similar in design, there are significant differences, as you will see here:


On a sad note, while researching background information on the Nostromo animation, I learned that its creator, Alan Sutcliffe, died March 26, 2014. He was a composer, designer, author, and computer programmer, and accomplished quite a lot during his lifetime.

Here is his obituary, written by his widow:

Alan Sutcliffe obituary (The


And a nice remembrance, written by George Mallen, with whom he founded the Computer Arts Society:

From EMS synthesizers to ‘Alien’: Alan Sutcliffe – A Memoir





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